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St. John, Virgin Islands and Caribbean Stories

Children playing, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

The following events took place some years back and illustrates a unique Virgin Islands experience.

Macy’s in NYC, that is, THE Macys on 34th Street, the one where the REAL Santa Claus comes to greet children at Christmas time, was a great place to shop for housewares back then, when St. John housewares shopping was just about non-existent and St. Thomas offered only limited (and expensive) options. Additionally Macy’s was offering a special shopping service in which they would consolidate shopping from various departments and arrange for shipping. So being that I had a newly built villa to furnish, I choose to avail myself of this convenient and affordable offer.

After spending a couple of hours, going from department to department choosing items for the villa, I proceeded to the check out counter to pay up and arrange for shipping. But when the shipping destination came up and proved to be the Virgin Islands, the lady at the counter informed us that Macy’s only shipped with UPS, which had only very expensive options for the Virgin Islands. When I asked if it would be possible to ship through the US Postal service, I was told that it couldn’t be done.

Why not? I asked.

“That’s just our policy,” she explained.

Meanwhile this pretty young black lady, also working for Macy’s, apparently overheard a snippet of our conversation.

“Where are you from?” she asked.

“The Caribbean,” I answered.

“Me too,” she replied.

“Where?” I asked

“Oh, an island in the British Virgin Islands. You probably never heard of it,” she answered.

At this point, I noticed her name-tag that displayed the last name Parsons.

“Let me guess, I ventured. “I would say you’re from Tortola, probably Brewers Bay.”

“Oh, my God!’ she exclaimed. “How did you know?”

“Well, I have this friend from there, Delbert, and I know that the Parsons name is an important one on Brewers Bay.”

“Oh, my God!” she repeated, “Uncle Delbert!”

She then turned to the lady that was attending to us and said that she would take care of us. When we explained our situation, she told us not to worry.

“There’s a post office right on the fourth floor. Tony, a Jamaican who works here, can take your things up there and we’ll arrange everything, no problem a’tahl.”

St. John and Virgin Islands News

Whales Sighted Off of Cruz Bay

“News of St. John” video of whales taken from the car ferry on the way to Red Hook

Beach-to-Beach Power Swim Ranked No. 19 in World’s Best 100 Open Water Swims
By Source Staff — February 25, 2014

Openwaterswimming.com, the leading Web site dedicated to open water swimming, ranked the Friends’ Beach-to-Beach Power Swim number 19 on their list of the World’s 100 Best Open Water Swims. This is an international list, and it also placed third among the 17 U.S. open water swims that made the list…. read more

Strong Cruise Growth in US Virgin Islands
By the Caribbean Journal staff

The United States Virgin Islands saw strong growth in cruise tourism in 2013, according to data from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Cruise passenger visits to the USVI grew by 4.9 percent last year, with a total of 1,998,579 cruise passengers.

That was among the largest improvements of any Caribbean destination with complete annual reporting from 2013.

It was also a marked improvement over the previous year, when the US Virgin Islands experienced a 5.2 percent reduction in cruise tourism compared to 2011.

In 2012, the USVI welcomed 1,904,468 cruise passengers, according to CTO data.

V.I. AG’s office reviewing federal cockfighting law
By JENNY KANE (Daily News Staff)
Published: February 24, 2014

ST. THOMAS – The rules on cockfighting have changed in the United States, and V.I. officials are seeking clarification on what effect the changes to federal law will have on the lack of any laws in the Virgin Islands that prohibit cockfighting.

The only law pertaining to cockfighting in the V.I. Code pertains to taxing it as an entertainment when admission is charged, which up until now has implicitly made it legal in the territory.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill, also known as the Agricultural Act of 2014. As of last week, a provision in the bill makes it a federal crime to attend an animal fight, including a cockfight, and a separate crime to bring a child under the age of 16 to an animal fight.

The former could be punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, and the latter by up to three years and a $250,00 fine. During a cockfight, roosters are placed in pen and left to fight each other until one of the two dies. By themselves, their fighting generally is not enough to be fatal, so those who own the roosters often place razor blades on the legs of the animals, according to the website of the Humane Society of the United States.

Though most states in the nation outlawed the practice years ago, several of the country’s territories, including the Virgin Islands, maintain laws that allow cockfights to take place.

Under the V.I. Code, cockfighting is considered entertainment – along with circuses, horse races, theatrical performances, boxing matches and concerts – that is taxable when an admission is charged to attend…. read more

St. John USVI Live Music Schedule

Barefoot Cowboy Lounge
Erin Hart
7:00 – 9:00
201-1236

Castaways
Karaoke Night
9:00
777-3316

High Tide
Chris Carsel
6:00 8:00
714-6169

Inn at Tamarind Court
Steel Pan
6:30
776-6378

Island Blues
Karaoke
8:00
776-6800

La Tapa
Sambacombo
6:30 – 9:30
693-7755

Morgan’s Mango
Greg Kinslow
6:30 – 9:30
693-8141

Ocean Grill
Lauren Jones
6:30 – 9:30
693-3304

See Weekly Schedule

St. John Weather

Scattered showers, mainly before noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 76. East wind 13 to 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

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St. John Sea Creatures: Green Sea TurtleUnlike other members of its family, such as the hawksbill sea turtle, C. mydas is mostly herbivorous. The adults usually inhabit shallow lagoons, feeding mostly on various species of seagrasses.

Like other sea turtles, green sea turtles migrate long distances between feeding grounds and hatching beaches. Many islands worldwide are known as Turtle Island due to green sea turtles nesting on their beaches. Females crawl out on beaches, dig nests and lay eggs during the night. Later, hatchlings emerge and scramble into the water. Those that reach maturity may live to eighty years in the wild.

C. mydas is listed as endangered by the IUCN and CITES and is protected from exploitation in most countries.[7] It is illegal to collect, harm or kill them. In addition, many countries have laws and ordinances to protect nesting areas. However, turtles are still in danger because of several human practices. In some countries, turtles and their eggs are hunted for food. Pollution indirectly harms turtles at both population and individual scales. Many turtles die caught in fishing nets. Also, real estate development often causes habitat loss by eliminating nesting beaches…. read entire Wikipedia Article

St. John News

Stay in a Virgin Island castle to benefit Haiti
By Susan S. Lang

There is a castle in the Virgin Island sky that “Jack” built. Over the years, Jonathan Back has donated more than a dozen free weeks at Castle St. John (www.castlestjohn.com/) to benefit local nonprofits, including the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, Learning Web, Love Knows No Bounds, Light on the Hill, E.A.C. Montessori School of Ithaca, Tikkun V’Or, WSKG radio and more.

But last year, Back discovered a nonprofit on the impoverished island of Haiti that made him “believe in angels on earth.” Sonje Ayiti (“remember Haiti’ in Creole) was doing such fine community work in health care, education, and economic development that Back wanted to help (www.sonjeayiti.com).

“I know it’s different from helping our local community,” said Back, “but I think of Haiti as our neighbor, too.” Haiti is the poorest of neighbors, and a far cry from the affluence in the island of St John, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, east of St. Thomas. A large portion of St. John is a national park.

So Back created a contest in which the grand prizewinner will win a free week at Castle St. John, including airfare. The project is his way of turning a personal and valuable asset into a way to benefit Haiti. Back is part of a growing group of “boomers” who want to use their assets for social justice. He not only hopes to use the raffle to inspire donations to a terrific nonprofit, but also as a model for others to turn their personal assets (wealth, skills, property, influence) into mini-social entrepreneurships.

“There are 600 vacation rentals on St. John alone that have vacancies all the time. If their affluent owners would donate a week or two a year to a nonprofit, think of all the money that could be raised,” said Back. “And that’s just one tiny island, and one useful idea out of thousands.”

Make a donation, get a raffle ticket at Guitar Works, Karma Salon, Toko Imports, Hairy Canary, Sundries (in Trumansburg), and The Vintage Industry (next to State Theatre).

You can also make a donation online at raffle4castle.com, or directly to Sonje Ayiti Organization, www.sonjeayiti.com/donate. If you let Jonathan know how much you donated at jhb27@cornell.edu , he will give you your raffle ticket numbers.

Prizes: The first prize is a week at the Castle (could be for two couples) airfare with two round-trips from a USAir hub. You can also add a wedding or vow renewal ceremony at the Castle or on the beach with Rev Ann Marie Porter (“the Barefoot Reverend”) officiating. There are over a dozen other prizes.

Back founded the local store 3-D Light and the café in the New Alexandrian Bookstore. He is a director of gratefulness.org, a board member of CRESP (now Cornell’s Center for Transformative Action), and a builder in New Orleans and Owego for Love Knows No Bounds.

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Red Sky in the Morning - Sailors Take Warning

St. John Live Music Schedule for tonight, Monday, January 30

 High Tide – Rascio on Steel Pan – 4:00 – 6:30 – 714-6169
Island Blues – Sol Driven Train – 7:00 – 776-6800
La Tapa  – Samba Combo – 6:30 – 9:30 – 693-8141
Maho Bay – Open Mic with Bo & Lauren – 7:00
Ocean Grill – Chris Carsel – 6:30 – 9:00 – 693-3304

See the weekly schedule

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Photo of the Day

Vieques

Vieques South Coast

St. John Music Schedule Thursday April 14

Banana Deck – Steel Pan by Lemuel Callwood – 6:00 – 9:00 – 693-5055
Castaways – Mikey P Rocks the House – 8:00 – 777-3316
High Tide - Steven Sloan – 7:00 – 10:00 – 714-6169
Island Blues – T-Bird – 7:00 – 10:00 – 776-6800
Miss Lucy’sRich & Greg - 6:00 – 9:00 – 693-5244
Ocean Grill – Rascio Steel Pan – 7:00 – 9:00 – 693 3304
Skinnylegs – Lauren – Guitar & Vocal – 6:00 – 779-4982
Westin, Cruz Bay PrimeJames Cobb – 6:30 – 10:00 – 693-8802

See Weekly Music Schedule

Note: I’m doing the best I can to present an accurate music schedule, but to be sure, it would be a great idea to call the restaurant or bar beforehand to confirm.

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St. John Photo of the Day

St. John Music: Daddy Chin and the Wailers

Mario "Chin" Jackson with Musical Vibration at the St. John Arts Festival


St. John News

8 Tuff Miles Race Results

Live Music on St. John Monday, February 28

High Tide – Steven Sloan – 7:00 – 10:00 – 714-6169
La TapaSambacombo – 6:30 – 9:30 – 693-7755
Maho Bay – Bo & Lauren – 8:00 – 10:00
Ocean Grill – Chris Carsel – 6:30 – 9:30 – 693 3304
Rhumb LinesDavid Laabs – 7:00 – 10:00

A word of caution to my visitors: I’m doing the best I can to present an accurate music schedule, but to be sure, it would be a great idea to call the restaurant or bar beforehand to confirm.

Weekly Music Schedule

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If you’re spending time in the Virgin Islands and have kids, the Butterfly Garden is a visit well worth taking. The kids will love it. There are excellent guides who will answer all their questions.

Below are some photos taken at the Butterfly Garden during a St. John Gifft Hill School Pre-Kindergarten class trip.

Butterfly Garden St. Thomas USVI
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catapult a Virgin Islands slingshot

catapult

Some years ago I came across a piece of Lignum vitae wood. part of which formed a “Y” just the right size for a kid’s slingshot. I saved the wood, but never got around to making it a slingshot, I confess, I’m not that handy, but I’m not so bad at delegating. Anyway the king of Virgin Islands slingshot art happened to be in town and I seized the opportunity. I also dug out this article he had written about just that, making a slingshot, or as they are called here, a catapult:

The Catapult, by Curtney “The Ghost” Chinnery
Normally we children would not go into the woods without our choice of weapon – a catapult. The making of the catapult is simple. Taking a piece of stick that has the shape of a “Y”, we make a groove at the two ends. Then we take a thin strip of tire tube from either a bike or a car and tie both ends of the tube onto the ends, creating what we would call a catapult. Each kid has a catapult.

The tongue of a shoe would be used as a pouch.

All children back then awake at 5:00 in the morning. Most children would have a long distance to go. Some, like myself, would journey into the hill above Great Harbour. My daily routine was climb or walk up the hill, a trail as long as I can remember. Even today it being used. Taking my journey about three mornings each week just before sunrise. Before I leave the yard, I would go to my box outside the house, where I keeps my marbles, catapult, and other personal antics. Taking only the catapult, after drinking a cup of our local bush tea, into the hills to fetch the cows. This was not an easy task for an eight year old. In any case, on the way into the hill to input a little playtime, we would shoot lizards. By doing so, we would get better with our aim. The main purpose of our catapult was to hunt birds, mainly the Mountain Dove. The Mountain Dove normally sings in dry weather. The elders used to tell us that the song the Mountain Dove sings is, “Father God, please send rain.” We still have that saying here on Jost Van Dyke. As my morning journey carries me to the cow pasture, taking and filling my pockets with tiny rocks to be handy for reloading my catapult. Shooting lizards and constantly listening for either the song of the Mountain Dove or the sweet whistling sound of their wings as they sweep through the trees. The reason that the Mountain Dove was our favorite prey on the hills is because of the sweet taste when fried.

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I have an uncanny way of being able to find the Ghost. Case in point the “Scotland Yard Incident.”

It all started one day in 2002 when I came home to find a rather unsettling message on my answering machine. It was from a Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin from Scotland Yard asking me to please give him a call. He left a phone number from the BVI.

I immediately ask myself what I possibly might have done to incur the interest of this  venerable law enforcement agency.

I rack my brain. What could they want? What did I do? Should I call? I can’t think of anything and so I decide to call.

“Hello, Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin Scotland Yard, who’s calling?”

“Gerald Singer from St. John”

“Oh good, Mr. Singer. I’m glad you called. We’re coming to St. John in  a few days and we’d like to talk to you.”

“What’s this about?” I ask.

“We’ll talk about it when we get there,” he answers, “we’ll call,” and he hangs up.

Mystery still not solved.

Three days later the phone rings.

“Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin, we’re at Cap’s Place in Cruz Bay. Can you come down and talk to us?”

“OK,”

So I go down to Cap’s along with my then girlfriend and there sitting at one of the tables are two casually dressed agents along with their wives.

I identify myself, join them and take a seat looking out at the street.

“So what’s the story?” I ask.

Well, the story goes like this:

The two agents are on Tortola investigating a murder, in which the local BVI police department are getting nowhere. The Scotland yard boys, however are pretty sharp and they have a good lead, a witness or a suspect who was in jail and there was this guy sharing a cell with him that they felt had some information. They didn’t want to approach the guy directly or ask too many questions locally, because they were afraid that the guy would be suspicious and hide or run. In their investigation they find that this fellow with the information has a friend on St. John that could act as an intermediary and that friend is me, and the individual they’re looking for is Curtney Chinnery, the Ghost.

“Would you talk to him,” they ask.

Before I can even answer the question I look out onto the street and who is walking by but none other than the Ghost himself.

“Excuse me a moment,” I say to the agents and walk out onto the street.

I walk over to Ghost and explain the situation and ask him if he wants to talk to the agents. He says, OK and we walk over to Cap’s.

The agents deputize the Ghost on the spot and the information that they gather from him proves to be helpful in the ultimate solving of the case.

Scotland Yard agents at Cap's Place

Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen from Scotland yard, their wives (left), Habiba, the ex girlfriend (between the two agents) and the Ghost (front)

Island Sun August 2, 2002
“Man charged in Bally Murder Case”

On 30 July, Darren Hodge, age 25, a serving prisoner at Balsam Ghut was charged with the murder of Jason Bally. A police sources stated that this case has been unsolved since October 1999. Ag. Commissioner Barry Webb reviewed the case last year and recommended a renewed investigation.

His Excellency Governor Frank Savage agreed to two officers from New Scotland Yard being attached to the investigation team which has been led by Inspector Alexis Charles. The Scotland Yard officers are Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen. Experienced RVIPF officers and Attorney General’s office have worked closely with the  officers from London for the past six weeks to bring this investigation forward.

Bally, 25, was shot in the street outside the Domino Gas Station in Sea Cows Bay on 15 October 1999. A native of Trinidad, the victim had been employed at Foxy’s Bar on Jost Van Dyke.According to police, investigations revealed that Bally and a male companion were walking along the Sea Cows Bay Public Road in the vicinity of Domino Gas Station when a black male approached them from the gas station area. A loud blast was heard and Bally fell to the ground while his companion escaped unharmed and alerted residents of the area. On examining the gas station police found that an attempted burglary had taken place and recovered items used in that attempt.

While police have gathered enough evidence to bring a murder charge against Darren Hodge, the investigation is still ongoing. There were a number of suspects involved in the attempted break-in of the gas station and efforts continue to collect evidence to prosecute them for burglary and to determine what part, if any, they played in the murder.

The investigation team is still keen to hear from anybody with information about the case. In particular, assistance is sought regarding two gas tanks left at Domino Gas Station by the suspects. It has never been established where these came from, but it is suspected that they were stolen from someone on Tortola.  Additionally, the weapon used in the murder is believed to have been a handgun that has not yet been recovered.

Police sources further noted that on 16 December 2001, Darren Hodge who was remanded to H.M. Prison for burglary escaped but later turned himself into police on 17 December. Hodge was due to be released on 19 August 2002, however due to the present matter he will have to reappear in the Magistrate’s Court on 23 October.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the investigation team on a dedicated telephone number: 468-9136. All calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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lime flower

lime flower

I though I might share some of the little things that made me smile this morning.

I noticed that my lime tree is in flower again. This is a local lime tree, not a grafted one. The limes have seeds and they turn yellow when ripe. They’re full of juice and are sweet in a limey sort of way. I planted this tree from a seed given to me by John Gibney, taken from a lime grown on my favorite lime tree. The tree flowers all over and almost all the flowers ripen turn into limes that fall to the ground when they get ripe. I would guess that each time it bears it gives at least 100 limes, probably more.

Now the lime tree is in flower once again and today as I walked by, I remembered something about the flowers. They’re special also. They have the most delicious aroma, like a beautiful perfume from an expensive perfume store.

Good T’ing! Made me smile.

aloe flower

aloe flower

I have a lot of aloes in the garden. I used to used them in shakes, but not so much recently. They’re good for sunburns or any kind of burn. Now they’re all in flower. The best thing about the aloe flower is that it attracts hummingbirds. My neighbors Adam and Jane have a hedge of aloes where I took this video on day when the aloes were in full bloom.

orchid

orchid

This is one of my favorite orchids. It’s not native to St. John. My guess is that it came fro El Yunque in Puerto Rico, but I’m not sure. It has been in bloom many times and each time it makes me smile.

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Curtney Chinnery aka The Ghost From Jost recites his poem, “Your Counterpart”

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Brought to you by Gerald Singer, St. John US Virgin Islands (USVI)